I wrote the journal excerpt below, on a day in March – one year exactly since the evening I’d first spent time alone with the other. I wrote it because I was scared that I was going to make choices that were not, in the eyes of myself or others, the choices that I ‘should’ make. I felt that knowing what others would think ought to help me make the ‘should’ choices, but I didn’t think I could do that. I could’t imagine remaining in a marriage for the rest of my life where I felt so lonely.
‘I know that people say you (God) can change things and I know that’s true. I also know our will has some part in it. I don’t know if it’s my will obstructing the path of change or if this is just a situation that you are leaving to me to come to decision about with you beside me. I feel like I’d be failing so many people and my desire to be liked and to please can’t take that. And yet this spirit crushing way of life can’t continue. Maybe I need to see my life with very different eyes? So maybe that’s my prayer today – that I will see my marriage, my family through your eyes and that I will be open to my heart being changed. As I write that I sense a physical constricting as if I’m protecting my heart from pain. I think that’s what it comes down to. I’ve had too much pain and I want it and the potential for it to stop. I have no idea what to do.’
The verse printed on the top of that page ?
‘Then ask God to come closer to you. God will get as close as you will let Him.’ James 4: 7-8 ( paraphrased)
The next day I read the story in 1 Kings 18 v 44 and 45 about the occasion when Elijah has told King Ahab that there will be rain, but he sends his servant to look for any sign of a cloud. A cloud that will indicate the fulfilment of God’s word, as it was God who’d promised rain and an end to the drought which was afflicting the country.
I’d read that story and told that story many times. I had never before noticed what we are told about Elijah’s physical placement when the servant was looking for clouds. I think I’d always imagined him to be standing indoors, or sitting somewhere recovering from his epic encounter with the prophets of Baal. Maybe someone was serving him food or drink.
No. Elijah was ‘bent down to the ground with his face between his knees’.
I knew what that position meant. In the previous weeks I had found myself on the floor of various rooms in my house, doubled over, pressing into the floor, as sobs wracked my body and the physical pain which the emotions caused me to feel made me want to disappear into the ground. I couldn’t get lower physically in my posture, and I couldn’t find a way to become more invisible. Bent to the ground with my face between my knees was me at my most broken, hurt and helpless.
Elijah was terrified. He was terrified that God wouldn’t keep his word. He was alone, isolated and scared. He couldn’t actually raise his head or open his eyes to look for fear he would be let down. If no rain came it was likely that King Ahab would kill him. His trust in God would be broken. The stakes could not have been higher.
Seven times his servant went to look for any sign of a cloud. I could feel Elijah’s rising desperation and yet he did keep checking. He persevered in hope. He waited; he wanted to trust, despite the seeming lack of fulfilment of the promises.
Then finally – a cloud as small as a man’s hand was seen.
Through that story I realised that I could both trust and be terrified, and that I needed to keep asking my ‘cloud spotters’ to check for rain clouds. I needed to know if they could see God acting when I couldn’t even bear to look. I needed to ask them to tell me if He was fulfilling his promise to me.
Of course I recorded these thoughts in my journal. It shouldn’t have been any surprise to me that the verse pre-printed on the bottom of the page was this:
‘The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving towards all he has made.” Psalm 145:13
That night I drove to collect a friend for 48 hours of time together. As I drove I had a phone conversation with my brother in which I told him I was still sure the marriage was dead. I didn’t realise that I was about to spend the weekend watching the rain clouds appear.
Lights in the darkness